In a major four-part exhibition, Focus Kazakhstan, the modern and contemporary art of Kazakhstan is open to an international stage in an historical first
The rich and varied artistic scene of Kazakhstan is being shared with international audiences on a previously unprecedented scale. Featuring works by 80 artists, the ambitious Focus Kazakhstan will take place across four countries, in the UK, Germany, South Korea and the USA, and provide a multigenerational and interdisciplinary survey of modern and contemporary Kazakhstani art.
In addition to a residency programme in Berlin, it will educate audiences on the art history of the nation as well as its cultural changes as it entered a global stage and dealt with the process of ‘de-Sovietization’. Other topics covered include feminism, 21st century post-nomadic art, and a phenomenon the curators refer to as ‘local modernity’ – all chosen to reflect the societal changes and transitions that Kazakhstan as a country has been going through as it forges a new identity.
The variety and diversity of art on display is reflected in the locations chosen for each of the four parts – from a 19th century hospital in Berlin to a disused hydraulic power station in London, a former tobacco warehouse in Jersey City, and an ultra-modern museum in Suwon, South Korea. Here, we give you the lowdown on all four shows:
18 September – 16 October
Wapping Hydraulic Power Station
The first of the four part exhibition examines artistic practice across generations and across historical periods, from contemporary artists to those practicing during the Soviet era. Bringing together the works of 31 artists, highlights include Almagul Menlibayeva’s Butterflies Of Aisha-Bibi (above) and Saule Suleimenova’s Skyline (see below).
25 September – 20 October
Bread and Roses
The second part of Focus Kazakhstan features work exclusively created by women. Examining the artistic output of four generations of artists from 1945 onwards, it examines the context of art made by women within a post-Soviet (and post-colonial) context. The Berlin part of the show will also feature a special residency programme for young Kazakhstani artists. Curated by David Elliott, Dr Rachel Rits-Volloch and Almagul Menlibayeva, the show will include work by 20 female artists, displaying work in an extensive range of media. Works include Bakhit Bubikanova’s New Year’s Postcard (main image) and Bakhyt Bubikanova’s Peri (see below).
Jersey City, USA
14 October – 30 November
Thinking Collections: Telling Tales
This part of the exhibition focuses on the idea of artist as collector, with a particular focus on art from the mid 1990s and early turn of the millennium. At a time when Kazakhstan was experiencing socio-economic changes as well as political and ecological transformations, artists were exploring traditional nomadic traditions, as well as Sufism and Shamanism. Centred around the works of Kyzyl Tractor, the country’s most famous art collective, Thinking Collections: Telling Tales is held as part of New York’s Asia Contemporary Art Week, and will also feature live performance.
Suwon, South Korea
27 November – 3 March 2019
The Eurasian Utopia: Post Scriptum
The ambitious programme moves into the new year with a survey of 20th and 21st century Kazakhstani artists whose works combine aspects of modernism as well as local, traditional culture – or, rather, creating a movement focused on ‘local modernity’. The starting point here is the work of Rustam Khalfin, one of Kazakhstan’s most notable artists, whose work has been chosen, alongside that of 30 contemporary names, to explore how this phenomenon has been explored in the work of several different generations.
A selection of our highlights below:
Focus Kazakhstan runs across four venues in four cities between September 2018 and March 2019. For more information and venue details, visit their website.
Main image courtesy of the artist. Images courtesy of the artists, American-Eurasian Art Advisors LLC, Laura Bulian Gallery, Soros Centre for Contemporary Art and Focus Kazakhstan
The initiative is implemented by the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan in association with the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan within the framework of the programme Ruhani Zhangyru.